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Monday, November 5, 2007

Vi Burg (St. Andrews) reflections on the delegation to New Orleans

We recently went to New Orleans with a group from Churches Supporting Churches (CSC). The founder of CSC is the Rev. Dr. C.T. Vivian, who worked very closely with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement. Here is what he said when interviewed about the origin of CSC:

"I was watching television as everyone else was for a couple of weeks just after the storms of August 2005. I realized that no one had even noticed the destruction of the churches. There were no pictures shown - there were no pastors interviewed - there was nothing to acknowledge that churches and all they represented had been destroyed. Their buildings were destroyed, their parsonages were destroyed, their people were scattered throughout the country - that moving of people from their homes was the only thing that was done on any scale. It was clear that the intent was to replace black people - let's say it like it is because racism was basic to this thing - they were intent on taking property from the poor and giving it away - to the government, to upper class whites, to the oil industry.

At one point it occurred to me that they were even dividing it up - I could see them giving the Ninth Ward to the oil industry, downtown to the people with money. It was clear that no one intended to rebuild the city on behalf of the people who lived there - there was not, and has not been, money given to help the poor return - there was not, and has not been, preparation for their coming back. These people were left with nothing in a place they didn't want to be and there has been no preparation made for their return to the city.

And so I woke up one morning with the idea of CSC - the idea of getting three churches up in twelve different neighborhoods as quickly as possible. Churches to serve as a force - as community bases - as places to worship and as centers of community rebuilding. These reopened churches would be led by a cadre of ministers ready to push issues. We formed CSC with 36 churches that have lost everything."


New Orleans is facing a major housing crisis
.

Rents are double or triple what they were before the storm. Many families are still shut out of their former homes in public housing. Homeowners are struggling with huge insurance costs. They face a gap between the cost of rebuilding and their insurance payouts and the Road Home grants. Several people I spoke with said the grant money they had been promised never materialized. As we toured the areas still affected by Katrina, it was very powerful. We came upon what looked like a field you might see here in Perkasie, only under closer inspection you could see the cement slabs where houses had been and families had lived. One sight that stayed with me was a set of steps behind which was a cement slab with concrete pillars that had supported a house. It looked like steps leading to a cemetery - the death of a family's dream.

I was impressed by the spirit of the people we met. We were warmly welcomed and individuals were willing to share their stories. As Rev. Boutee, Pastor of St. John Baptist our partner church, said in his Sunday message, "It's not the end of the road it's a bend in the road."

2 comments:

Caroline said...

Great reflections on the trip! Thanks, Vi!

jandgleonard said...

Thanks, Vi! I appreciated the way you characterized the steps and foundations of the "ghost" houses.